Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Spread This

We're about thirty years in, now, on making our own Christmas cards, and by "we," I mean me, with Dave's usual lavish support. Until five years ago, I carved a block and hand-printed over a hundred cards in black ink, and then hand-colored each one, and then wrote inside them and addressed the envelopes, and in the days before email that also entailed a fat recap of our entire year in longhand, because some of those people only heard from us that often. It worked out to about, carry the one, five thousand minutes per card, which means--move the decimal--I should be done with 1994's batch any time now.

Utterly ridiculous amount of time involved. Of course, I worked then, and as everyone knows, retired people are oh so busy. You know why retired people tell you they're busy? They just want to work "retired" into the conversation as often as possible because they enjoy the look on your face.

So, yes, I'm busy, but that's after working in nine or more hours of sleep a night, and a leisurely morning with the newspaper and coffee, and a considerable chunk of time staring into space. I now devote about three days to carving out my card block and getting a decent print and coloring it, and then it's off to the print shop for mass production. One "Murry Christmas" in my illegible hand on the inside, slap on the stamp, and Bob's yer uncle. The only really aggravating part involves Microsoft.

I made a spreadsheet of my Christmas card recipients. It's got three columns. Name, address, city.

I don't even really know what a spreadsheet is, and my Microsoft Excel spreadsheet knows this, and tries to wipe me off on the first low branch it trots under.

Wikipedia: "A spreadsheet is an interactive computer application for organization, analysis, and storage of data in tabular form." Sure it is! And you can manipulate all that data. And by "you" I mean you, not me. I try to alphabetize my list, for instance, and I get a nice column of names in order, which is useful if you don't mind that their addresses didn't tag along with them. Every time I try to do something like this my spreadsheet goes tectonic. The columns shift along predetermined fault lines with the names uplifted and the cities subsiding. Yes, I looked up how to do it right, but my spreadsheet can smell fear, and is in fact quite energized by it. My spreadsheet will stop suddenly just to watch me sail over its head into the bushes.

At one point I thought I couldn't add a new name to my list unless it fit alphabetically where I deleted a dead person.

So after a while I quit trying to manipulate my data and just flang it in. Which is inelegant, but at least it's all there. Until that dark day comes that I need to do a Mail Merge and get all those data on sheets of label paper.

But this is Microsoft. There's going to be a quiz. What is the name of your printer's first pet? Bzzzt, wrong answer, the parakeet totally counts. What kind of label paper are you using? Here's a list of a thousand brands of label paper. It's probably one of those, have a spin. What is the PIN number for your account? Do you want to start an account? Would you like 10% off for doing a survey? What's your maternal grandfather's first name? Are you sure? They changed things when they left the old country. What? Oh, you wanted to print labels? Never mind. What is the name of your printer's first pet?

Every year. Every year I would curse and drink and spend hours and finally my labels blundered into the barn and I slammed the gate behind them, and then I carefully wrote out instructions for the next year for what seemed to work. The next year those instructions did not work. Shit, I bought a Mac ten years ago, but I was afraid to not use Microsoft, so I got Microsoft Office for Mac all saddled up and tied it to my toolbar where it is routinely spooked by just about everything.  So this year I sidled up to my computer and threw a blanket over my spreadsheet's head and went to retrieve last year's instructions. And guess the hell what? I didn't have instructions from last year. What I did have was last year's list ready to print. I apparently saved the successful last step of the Mail Merge as a word document, and I was able to edit it for this year and hit Print and the gol-durned thing sprinted away and came back with my labels. Like that.

Which means I can send the spreadsheet to pasture and just update my word document from now on. I'm sure I didn't think of this wonderful thing. I think one of my young friends came drifting through and pulled a beer out of the fridge and fixed the settings on my computer and evicted the gremlins and reamed out my phone and said BTW (that's the way they talk) you can just use this document from now on, LOL. And I forgot it until now.

And this is why old ladies keep a lot of beer in the fridge.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

A Slug Named Skippy

I spied a hyphenated slug trail the other day.

Slug trails themselves are not at all unusual around here. We have lots of slugs, and they're always trying to get somewhere else, even if the place they end up isn't any different from where they started. The main reason a slug produces a snot trail is to make a Slip 'N' Slide so it doesn't scratch up its belly. (It's not really called a belly--they call that whole bottom portion a "foot," even though it's really more like a zamboni.) Also, it is thought that other slugs can find each other by following their trails if they're feeling sociable. And, of course, theoretically an individual can always use them to find its way back to where it's been, although it never does.

There are many uses for the mucus they produce to make their trails. One memorable ancestral slug of my youth used his to make sure I never walked barefoot in the grass again. Human observers are able to examine the slug's thought process by means of its trail, which usually wraps up in less than the width of a standard sidewalk. There's the heroic first sally, followed by an arc of doubt, indecision, looping, and despair, culminating in desiccation or the Rapture, depending. The Rapture, in slugdom, is when the good slugs are lifted up and go straight to bird shit.

This particular slug trail worried me because it was like when you don't have enough paint on your roller and there are dry bits on your wall at regular intervals. Slugs need a lot of paint on their rollers. They manufacture mucus from an area just below their mouths, right about where their foot starts.

At first I was very excited about my hyphenated slug trail in case it was evidence  of a sense of sluggular humor. Slugs are known for randiness and ick, but not really humor, so much. But what I saw on the sidewalk was precisely the joke in the comic strip Family Circus. Little Billy is supposed to come straight home but never does. He goes all over the place! Ha ha! It's such a staple of hilarity you can count on seeing it every couple weeks. Could my hyphenated gastropod be pulling a funny? Comedy has to start somewhere. There's a lot of evolution involved before you get to true stand-up, as pioneered by the meerkat family.

We like it damp here, and so do slugs. You could dang near navigate by slug trail on a full moon night. So when a Facebook friend posted a photo of a heavily slimed tree and asked whatever it could be--tree sap was the prevailing guess--I informed him he was looking at the aftermath of a slug orgy. I was right, too, but for some reason no one believes me anymore. [At least, not since the time I declared that a group of caterpillars once beat up a famous entomologist, trashed his place, stole his coin collection, and bought a bunch of meth.]

But I knew it was a slug orgy because one of the many things slugs do with their vaunted mucus is goo themselves up to a tree branch and hang from a slime string to have sex, and lots of it, and they aren't at all averse to doing it in a group. Everybody has the same equipment. A slug is not just an undifferentiated bag of snot: each slug has one vagina, one penis, one nostril, one mouth, one anus, and one foot. Pity the poor forensic artist who has to work with that description.

The hyphens! That's it! Slugs got only one foot! They're hopping!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

TLDR

These days it's more important than ever to stay informed. Everyone says so. We must be intelligent consumers of the news, able to discern fact from fiction in a world that aims to deceive. That's right. News is something we consume. Not sure what happens to it down the line.

Say you find something interesting, something serious, something from a famously thoughtful journal, and you click on it. You settle back. It's a comprehensive review of judicial and recent stippled history as it pertains to the current ascendancy of the alt-elf estate, with bonus analysis by highly ornamental exports in the field of cross-germinated flagitation. You concentrate on the first few paragraphs, consuming away in a righteous state, brow furrowed, and when it doesn't seem to be in a hurry to wrap up, you start to wonder how long is this, and you glance over at the scroll bar, just to see exactly what sort of commitment is being asked of you, and that little dingus is way up there on the page, and then you go back in for another paragraph or so, soldiering away, but it's troubling, and then you give that scroll bar a big spin like Wheel of Fortune, and holy moly but it's a long one, and so you bookmark the page and file it away in your online hidey-hole of worthy things you mean to read sometime, which is nearly as virtuous as reading it, and have to recuperate with a video of kittens falling off things.

Don't let this happen to you.

Because these days it's more important than ever to monitor your information diet so as not to damage delicate emotional tissues. It's not that you don't want to stay informed but sometimes a glancing blow of news is good enough. Get the gist, enough to fill in the right bubbles on the ballot, and move on with your life. Fortunately there are ways to gauge your level of involvement before it's too late.

For instance, listen to the language in the first few moments of a radio broadcast. They'll tell you what you're in for right up front. It's a good sign if the host of a show is going to have a conversation around something. Or if he is interviewing someone and asks for help to get his head around an issue. Or even wrap it around. You can anticipate a pretty easy data dump here--a moderate but not insurmountable degree of information is headed your way. If you're lucky, they'll even do some spitballing, or they'll offer to circle back.

But use caution if someone is planning to unpack a story. That can get grisly in a hurry. Before you know it, they'll threaten to drill down or, worse, do a deep dive. You might want to back off and change the dial until you find someone willing to give you the takeaway.

The takeaway is really where it's at, but keep your instincts sharp; if the conclusion is anything other than "The future still remains to be seen," or "No one expects that to change anytime soon," you might be getting into some suspect content there.

In troubled times, you're probably safest just getting your news from snappy memes on social media. These are designed to be short, sassy, and to the point. Your friend might post it with the single comment "This." Or, look for something that ends in "Think about it. Take all the time you need." This will generally be a slam-dunk absurdity and, usually, a shout-out to the choir, which should puff out your righteousness sails for minutes at a time.

For even more pointed commentary, look for the words "Let that sink in."

There! That didn't take long! Now you know which bubbles to fill in, you've limited your exposure to abrasive reality, and you're back in kitten territory.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Oh, Fudge It

What's in YOUR refrigerator?
I believe in tradition, even if I have to make one up every year, and so it is with solemn pride that I report this is the thirty-fifth year in a row I have screwed up the fudge-slathered fudge cake in a completely new way.

It's never come out right, but it never comes out wrong the same way twice. I am not a baker. A baker understands things about temperature and chemistry and eggs. I have the reputation in my family as a baker on account of I do bake things, and I bake things because I like eating baked goods. In much the same way, Dave is a cook because he likes eating, um, food. We come as a set. It usually works out.

My baking works out mainly because it's hard to throw flour and sugar and butter and cream together without getting something yummy out of it, even if you have to rename it.

Usually I mess up the fudge frosting on the fudge-slathered fudge cake. It either sets up too strenuously and slabs onto the cake like shingles, or stucco, or something other than smooth shiny slatherance; or, conversely, it doesn't set up at all, and we have to chase it all over the counter with spoons. In all likelihood this is a matter of temperature and if I were an actual baker I would have a sense how hot to bile it and for how long, OR I would have a thermometer and precise instructions. The recipe doesn't mention a thermometer. It merely suggests I cook it on medium low for about ten minutes. On the test kitchen's stove, using the test kitchen's saucepan. The home cook is on her own.

I messed up the frosting a little this time. Calls for six ounces of unsweetened chocolate, for which I substituted the three ounces I actually had on hand, two ounces of semi-sweet chocolate chips, and a pale, desiccated old ounce I scrounged from my neighbor, because it's not really Thanksgiving unless you're missing a key ingredient and the stores are all closed.

I don't usually mess up the cake. At least, not any more than it's been messed up every year. It involves whipped-up egg whites and whipped-up egg yolks. You're supposed to fold the egg whites into the rest of the cake batter. "Folding" egg whites is one of those baker jokes. Real bakers laugh themselves silly over putting that instruction into a recipe, because it is not possible to mix fluffy egg whites into chocolate and ground nuts and keep any loft in them at all. There's really no point. Nevertheless, I try for it every year. The two cake layers bake up fluffy and then swoon into sad little cratered crackers as they cool.

This year, however, I dropped a bit of egg yolk into the egg whites and couldn't persuade it out, so I just went ahead and tried to whip it all into Soft Peaks. I did not achieve Soft Peaks. I achieved an apathetic foam floating on a sea of snot.

Hell with it, I said. It's not like this cake ever stays fluffy anyway. I mashed all the egg portions together with the nuts and chocolate and poured the whole mess into the pans, and I will be dogged if the cake didn't turn out better than it ever had. It's not fluffy, of course, but this time it's not actually concave.

Well! The frosting turned out perfect too. Without any doubt, this was the most successful fudge-slathered fudge cake in 35 years. Somewhere, there's a cabal of bakers cackling their fannies off thinking of how much pointless bullshit they get people to do. I should've known right off the bat when the first instruction was "grease two pans and then line with tin foil." Because everyone knows how much tin foil loves to stick to pans! Very funny, baker cabal.

Next year I'm going to throw all the ingredients at once into a big bowl and chuck eggs into it from across the room, fish out the shell fragments, and mix. It'll be fine.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Lube Them Cubes

From Trousering Your Weasel
Before I'd even gotten out of bed, I'd been sent the link to the latest wombat poop article, twice. As might be expected, dozens more followed throughout the day, although there is really no point in counting after number two. My friends believe I can squeeze a blog post out of something like this easily, with the only problem being where to snap it off.

But I had already written just about as much as a person should about the subject in my groundbreaking scientific opus, Trousering Your Weasel,* or so I thought. Short of fresh insight into the subject of wombats and their square poop, I didn't think there was anything left to clean up. But new research has emerged in the field of Biological Fluid Dynamics.

Photo by Bobbie Irwin, my very sister
Among other discoveries, it was found that in the final eight percent of the wombattal intestine, the contents change from a liquid-like state to a solid state. This is the primary difference between wombats and cows or mashed-potato extruders, for both of which the material sets up extra corpus. I myself have noticed quite a bit of variability in the state of my contents even over the course of a typical morning, with the solid state prevailing at first, and becoming more enthusiastic later on.

The scientists in question, including a Dr. Hu, from the University of First Base, examined the alimentary canals of wombatroids by emptying the intestine and inserting and inflating a long balloon. The breakthrough occurred when they began utilizing deceased wombats that could be reliably pinned down; previous attempts proved vexing when the wombats under study kept flying around the room backwards. There simply aren't enough graduate students in the world for that.

The balloon experiment showed that the intestine itself has varying elasticity and the contents are constrained at the corners, producing a cuboid like dimensional lumber, but no explanation was given for how the turds were expelled without the tapering action most of us find comfortable. It was assumed, by me, that the process resembles the calving of a glacier, writ small and brown, with the chunks falling where they may.

But such was not the case. In fact, the cubes themselves are completely formed inside the wombat, due to a process that remains mysterious, and the animal then tumbles out dice at the rate of about a hundred per day.

Photo by Bobbie Irwin, my very sister
Prevailing theories held that wombats poop cubes to mark their territories, which is true only so far as the presence of wombat poop is reasonable evidence for the existence of a wombat in that particular territory. "We're in wombat territory," a field biologist might thus note, without being able to conclude that she is not also inside an overlapping potoroo perimeter, or perhaps in the proximity of a platypus.

A sensible explanation for the compaction of the cubes is that wombats are conserving all the water they can, and if you really, really, really need water you can press it out of your poop. (We have some relevant experience here with our two cats, one of whom produced turds so dry you could pick them up with your fingers and not even bother to wash afterwards, unless it was real close to dinner and the Queen was coming. The other produces mostly moist marvels, and in a tremendous stroke of good fortune, she is the one who always uses the litter box.)

So the wombat squares off its dookie by compressing it inside intestinal walls that have a certain amount of "give" in some places and not others. Specifically, the intestinal wall has azimuthally varying elastic properties, it says here in the abstract, and bully for the wombat, because anything worth doing is worth doing azimuthally, as I sometimes say.

There is no grant money for research you can't eventually wring a profit out of, so the scientists suggest that wombat pooping might illuminate a new method of manufacturing cubes, using soft tissues. Whose soft tissues has not been addressed, so don't sign anything without reading it first.

* Trousering Your Weasel is still available, signed by the author, and makes the world's best Christmas present for the money, which is a ridiculously low $13. What was I thinking?


Saturday, November 24, 2018

Make It Go Away



From: Ron
Subject: Your Blog unsubscribe!

Hi Ron, I don't blame you. I set that whole blog subscription thing up a long time ago and you get those little emails every time I post, and you're tired of it. Not only that, but you thought the blog was going in an Erma Bombeck direction and it turned out to be a libtard cesspool. The problem is, when I set up the subscription thingy, it was just sort of a handshake deal with the children who run the internet, and nobody sent me a manual. The promise was that it would all be automatic, and the children would take care of everything for us. Up until now, for the last ten years, that has been the case. No, sir, I don't know the children personally, or I would certainly ring them up on your behalf.

Anyway, when you hit "Reply" on the email, it didn't go to the smart children, it went to me, and I don't have the ability to unsubscribe for you. However, you can do it yourself by clicking on the "unsubscribe" button at the bottom of the email.

Hope this helps.

From: Ron
Subject: Your Blog second request to unsubscribe!!

Hi Ron! Maybe it seems to you that I should be able to unsubscribe for you, but the trouble is it's like calling up the FBI and complaining about the "dog down the street." And then when they ask which street, answering "You know good and well which street, I've lived here all my life." Everyone wants to help you, but they can't.

The good news is you can shoot the dog yourself merely by scrolling down to the "unsubscribe" button and clicking on it.

From: Ron
Subject: Your Blog third request to unsubscribe!!!

Ronny baby! Try this. You click on the link. The link is the part that shows up in blue. It will say "unsubscribe now," and that's our clue that we're in the vicinity of the email that is pertinent to our needs. Clicking means you maneuver your little arrow thingy over the blue part and press down. It will probably make a clicky noise. Just once should do it. If it doesn't, click harder and numerously and maybe put a little fingernail into it.

Sir? Do you have a great-grandchild, or possibly a neighbor boy you're grooming? See if you can entice him over to help. Maybe put out a bowl of those little hard strawberry candies. They love those.

No, no, believe me, sir, I totally understand your frustration. I'm no young thing myself, and I too have to get a little help every now and then. Ha ha! We can't expect to be as adept at this kind of thing as the children who grew up with an ultrasound in the womb. Lit up their little wieners and everything. My land!

From: Ron
Subject: Your Blog fourth request to UNSUBSCRIBE!!!!

Oh! You are employing the caps lock key now, I see. By this, if I take your meaning right, you mean you were serious the first time you wrote, and you're not playing around any longer, and perhaps my own computer has gone hard of hearing, or otherwise the issue would have been resolved by now.

The trouble is with something called Feedburner, which is the name of my blog subscription service. I don't know how it works. It's a widget, and widgets are easily spooked. You start messing with one widget, and the whole pack gets restless. I try to make as little noise as possible around them to keep the peace.

But my problems are no concern of yours, Ron, yes, I take your point. Okay, I'm going to try something old-school, if you'll just bear with me a moment.

From: Ron
Subject: YOUR BLOG FIFTH REQUEST TO UNSUBSCRIBE!!!!!

Please! Stop with the capital letters! I almost had Dobbin rounded up to hitch to your subscription and haul it away, and now he's whickering over behind the water trough. Meemaw is flapping at him with her apron to get him back around but at this point we're losing daylight.

From: Ron
Subject: FINAL REQUEST! IT IS YOUR BLOG, TAKE ME OFF NOW!!!!!!

All right, I didn't want to have to bring out the big muskets, but I must tell you that Meemaw has been listening in on your phone conversations (one long, three shorts, am I right?) and she wants you to know she can ruin you right up to kingdom come and ain't afraid to try, you filthy fopdoodle. Your move, sir.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Now Thank We All The Time

Mizzable, unpraised child
I remember reading that there was an island nation whose people were affronted if you said "Thank you" to them. To their way of thinking, expressions of gratitude felt like insults. Why wouldn't they be kind and helpful? Why would anyone suggest otherwise?

I think this kind of cultural difference is in play now between the generations here. Someone recently commented on the propriety of food servers giving their names and asking their customers for theirs. I said no server has ever asked me my name and I hope they never do. Which, I will admit now, sounds snippy.

"Why?" came the simple query back. "What would that mean to you, if your server asked your name?"

I can't explain it. At least, I can't explain it without your concluding I'm an asshole. I don't want to know my server's name. I don't know why they should know mine. I like a friendly exchange but this isn't that kind of relationship.

"Oh," came the answer, which I interpreted to mean: you're an asshole. I mean, I even sounded like one to myself. At least, my being an asshole was one possible explanation.

There's an awful lot of niceness going on all the time in the younger generation and a lot of it rubs me the wrong way. Which pretty much makes me an asshole, and that rubs me the wrong way. All the marketing is so damned adorable. I'm getting boxes of food from an outfit called Imperfect Produce and they can't communicate without being cute as all get-out. I log into my account just to ask for yams or something and the page comes up in pink and flowers and says Welcome back, Mary! You look nice today!

Eww.

This is all wrong. I look nice today? Well, yeah. But how do you know that? You don't know that. You're just guessing. And I'll bet you say that to all the people on the other side of the internet from you.

I just called some outfit on the phone and the answering robot explained, while redirecting my call, that our communication might be recorded so "our listening experts can learn how to be even more awesome."

Eww.

Everyone means well--grossly, overbearingly well--but this doesn't sit right with me. It's all a matter of upbringing, I think. I do not remember a time I was praised as a child, at least by my parents. My sister reported that no matter what I produced in the way of artwork, for instance, it was always accepted by my folks as just a regular, day-to-day offering. Nothing special. "That's nice, honey," maybe. To this day overt praise embarrasses me, at least in person. I get all squirmy.

I'm led to understand, though, that this is not the normal way of going about things now, and kids are praised lavishly for any behavior this side of sociopathy. And maybe beyond ("People don't like it when you hit them, Heather, but awesome left hook"). I can't help but think that has to feel false and counterfeit to them, but maybe it doesn't. Maybe if that's what you're used to, you'd feel bereft and ashamed without it. I don't know.

Love is a whole other thing. There's no limit to that. Can't give a kid too much of that. Bring it on. But praise? Eww.

And when everything you do is awesome, there's no more Up. There's nowhere to go.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Molto Dolto

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

It used to be a marketing ploy. Now it's just a description of my short-term memory in the shower.

This business of having a clean brain slate every day requires some workarounds, but it has its advantages, too.

For instance, it's great to be able to listen to good music with fresh ears. Unless something has been played to death, and then had its corpse hacked up and crushed into powder and packed into your ear--I'm looking at you, Vivaldi's Four Seasons--I'm probably listening with fresh ears. Sometimes I hear some wonderful piano music on the radio and think: I like that. That sounds vaguely familiar. I go rummaging through my sheet music to find it and learn it. I begin to plink it out and after a day or two I notice there are already some fingerings on the page, in my handwriting, and then I realize it sounds vaguely familiar because I spent three months learning it. Last year.

Three months is about average for me. Our performance group meets that often. I have a routine:

First I bushwhack through the piece to get an idea what I'm in for. Okay, okay, this part is easy, this part is not so easy but at least it repeats, this part is totally doable unless I'm planning to get it up to speed, and this little climax thingy here is not actually possible at all but I can take a good stab at it and see if it dies outright or goes limping off long enough to get me to the coda. It's all pretty exciting and I give it a good whirl for about a week and a half, and then something in my internal clock reminds me that I don't need to have this sucker done for another two months. I could do something else for a while. An art project or something. I won't, but I could.

About a month away from the performance, I pick it up again and do a serious slog. Currently, for instance, I'm working on a Beethoven sonata with a bunch of variations. I don't know how many because I'm not planning to learn them all. Just like with my beer drinking, I figure I can stop at any time. The tempos vary. They start out Andante, as God intended. The next is somewhat challenging but there's no tempo indicated; I trot on over to Youtube to find a recording. Can we hope for Andante again? Moderato maybe? Oh, looky there, it's Molto Bat Out Of Hell. Thankfully the next is a dirge; I can play it with one hand on a casket rail. Then things deteriorate in a hurry. Vivace, Liberace, Whoop Whoop and Whoa Nelly, followed by The Horse Is Out Of The Barn.

I might not get to those.

Now there are two weeks to go and things are starting to snap together nicely. If I take it slow and hammer at the tougher passages, this mofo is going to be in peak condition by performance time. Oh look! Crayons!

The day before the event, I practice the tough parts ten times a day with time off in between to let my fingers think about what they've done. The day of the event I'm at it all day long. Just at the time I'm about to find my coat and go out the door, and not a minute earlier, I have the whole piece together such that if absolutely nothing goes wrong and I'm not even a little bit nervous, it will all be fine. Just fine. Over-rehearsing is for sissies who are afraid of failure. And professionals.

I go. I play. I either crash and burn or get away with a minor singeing. There's wine. Later, I'm inspired. I leaf through my sheet music to find something for next time. It's in three months. In three months I will not only have forgotten how to play what I just played, but I won't remember what it was. I am serious. Last performance event I had to ask someone else what I'd played the time before. She knew, too. She looked up and to the left, into the sealed vault of her wonderful mind, and said "I think it was the Chopin Etude in A-flat major."

How does that one go, I didn't say.

I don't know what the rest of you do with all that clutter in your brains, but I keep things spotless over here. Even my ears are fresh. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Lowdown On The Showdown

Democrats!
Doggone! We liberals almost pulled it off.

We almost got a whole new group of Democrats into the country in time to kick some electoral ass. Next time! Just goes to show we, like Charles Koch, are capable of playing the long game. We had to start way back in the 1970s and totally screw up Latin American citizens by propping up dictators, flooding the countries with arms for anyone willing to drop a Commie, and bankrolling any murderous soul who was willing to sell off his country's public wealth to private corporations. The War on Drugs was just a bonus. In order to deprive Americans of their party drugs, we were able to destroy entire villages with herbicides to prevent farmers from growing the only crop they could make any money on, after Walmart undercut them on all the rest.

Visigoths! I mean Democrats!
Admittedly, we liberals didn't do most of that stuff ourselves--we haven't historically been CIA fans--but like conservatives, we're perfectly willing to make hay with any chaos that presents itself. It was a lot of work and a lot of money over a long period of time, but we finally got a bunch of desperately poor, frightened people to trudge thousands of miles to our country for a life with a little less death and despair in it, and that's no small thing. Who would want to leave their sunny home for a strange land unless they were in a heap of trouble? No one. But here they come!

Of course, they say most of them were coming here to rape and murder the people we're too lazy to rape and murder. And that is true. Also there were some Muslim extremists in the mix, a smattering of Visigoths, the Sith, and a really nasty new virus. But you've got to work with what the Lord gives you.

Democrats!
So we were all ready for them. We were going to hand out hippie daisies at the border and pamphlets instructing them exactly where to settle, along with a gift bag of food stamps, photo ID, their own personal Social Security number, plus a filled-out ballot. The settlement goals we had in mind coincided neatly with gerrymandered districts, all of which are full of Republicans looking to save big cash under the table on yard work and child care, and by the time they recognized they'd been disgerrymandered, it would all be over.

Where we went wrong was waiting for George Soros to cut loose the cash for transportation when the shiftless suckers couldn't hobble to the border in time on foot. He was too wrapped up in Human Rights Watch and Black Lives Matter and other sissy civil-rights operations and there's no way to get him to focus without him being all, "Oooh, Holocaust survivor," and you have to step back politely and wait for him to finish crying.

More Democrats!
Now this particular election is over, and it's too early to say if the results will change the composition of the migrant caravan. It's possible the caravan will dissolve harmlessly into the ragged and desperate pilgrims they started out as, but it's also possible they'll retain a core group of bad hombres, armed with assault rifles and Kill Whitey tee-shirts and brown sperms, so they'll be along in time for the 2020 election.

That's fine with us. We love criminals as long as they vote correctly, which they will, because we're totally soft on crime. I mean, we officially deplore white-collar crime, but we don't do much about it. We're a little troubled that they're going to bring down the hit-man wages, because that's what happens when you don't stick with the union, but perhaps we can get them to organize later.

First things first.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Dinner With The Dunns

No offense, but when we say "Sure, I'd love to see photos on your phone of your dog/grandkids/vacation," what we really mean  is "Please God, no." We don't even know why. We know we ought to want to see a tiny picture of your dog, but somehow we never get the joy out of it that we're supposed to, and now we want to talk with someone else.

It's a lot easier to bore people comatose these days. We have so many bite-sized, snappy ways to do it, and they take almost no time at all. But we sense them adding up. Ten seconds into someone else's favorite youtube snippet, we already feel our lives ebbing away.

Taking mushroom pictures
You used to have to work at it harder. But my father was not a lazy man. When we had company for dinner, he hauled out the pull-up picture screen in the living room, with its odd, sharp, sparkly scent of futility and despair, and he set up the slide projector and fiddled with it until things were centered. And then he showed his slides of mushrooms and spider webs, pausing significantly at each one to intone a Latin name and allow for proper appreciation. He liked mushrooms and spider webs, personally, and while he no doubt suspected it wasn't of general interest, he simply had no other entertainment marbles in his bag. Our guests would murmur politely and cast surreptitious glances at the slide projector to gauge progress, and then everyone would put their coats on and leave.

At least we didn't have much company. Actually, all we had was the Dunns. Myrtle and Larry Dunn were an older couple from church, and the only acquaintances that could conceivably be wedged into Daddy's narrow comfort zone. Mr. Dunn was grumpy like my dad and Mrs. Dunn was nice like my mom. She always complimented my mom on her famous homemade bread, twinkled at me across the table while she and mom agreed how fast "they" grow up, and then it was off to the slide show and out the door.

Mom was the one who was into people, or at least she was nice. She was rumored to have had a social life before she married my father. I hope she liked how I turned out because her social life with grownups dwindled sharply. She'd invite Myrtle and Larry over about once a year, and they always retaliated, I mean reciprocated, about a week later. "I wish she wouldn't do that!" Mom would say when she hung up the phone, but under her breath, because she was nice.

A social life is a fine thing, but there's no need to overdo it.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Sudden-Onset Foot Leprosy

I have this little spot on my right foot that is ever so slightly itchy and burny. Sometimes. Just a twinge every now and then. I reviewed my personal stash of lore and concluded it was Athlete's Foot, and I got some ointment, and I'm putting it on twice a day, or when I remember to. Dave thinks I'm nuts.

"Athlete's foot? Really?"

Yeah. Itching and burning? Yeah.

"You? You think you have athlete's anything? You tip over in a light breeze."

True.

"You wobble visibly when a thought strikes you."

Sometimes.

"You could twist your ankle on a painted cow grate."

Okay.

"I've seen you botch the dismount from a recliner."

Fact.

"You couldn't throw a pitch over the plate without a relay man."

Fair enough.

"Nobody stands behind you in horseshoes."

All right. All right. Point taken. Nevertheless I am applying athlete's foot ointment to my foot because it might help and also because it's only seven dollars. I'm not $100 GlaxoSmithKline sure, but I'm $7 Walgreen's sure. And I think it's helping. I think maybe I haven't had that itching and burning as much, although most of the time I didn't notice it anyway. It's hard to notice when something minor stops happening. I'm going to give it another few weeks of occasional random slathering. And if it seems to have more or less gone away by then, I'm going to consider myself a genius, probably, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, which--should any arise--I plan to ignore.

That's how people think, not just me. Other possibilities with regard to my foot are: I have imagined the whole occasional twinge. And: I have a small splinter that has worked its way out. And: I had sudden-onset Intermittent Foot Leprosy and have been cured as a result of renouncing my sins and recommitting myself to the path of righteousness.

Sure, I could gather data and study it and all, but why get all facty when I can make shit up for free? I'll just pick a hypothesis that works for me and hang on.

It's sort of like how we can see all these families trekking across the desert toward our border desperately trying to escape rape and murder in their home villages, or so they claim, and we think: "Those people are vermin infesting our country to take advantage of the taxpayers and get stuff for free, and if we're super firm with them they'll realize the errors of their ways," and then we rip their children from them and send them back across the border, and no one ever hears from them again. Which proves we were right and they were up to no good. Good people don't abandon their children.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

The Urge To Purge

I voted last week. There were problems. Tater Cat kept stretching out on the Voter's Pamphlet, and I got so caught up trying to figure out one of the ballot measures that I overcooked my oatmeal. Other than that, things went smoothly.  The Voter's Pamphlet came through the mail slot a couple weeks ago and a few days later the ballots shot through too. If I could rig up the mail slot so they'd land in my lap it would be even better.

It takes me a few days to study the ballot, on account of having to attend to the oatmeal and the litter box and whatnot, but I've got plenty of time. And it's a good thing, too. I remember those awful days when we'd trudge through the rain to the polling place and the nice neighbor lady would hand us our ballots and we'd pull the curtains behind us and vote. They were tiny curtains, gave you standard hospital-gown coverage. The ballot always seemed to have a few surprises I wasn't prepared for and that took some time. And then there'd be some initiative that would be described like this:

"The result of a NO vote is to maintain the repeal of the prohibition of the anti-inflammatory annulment revision ban." This kind of thing takes a lot of study. You have to start at the end and work backwards, and you don't always have enough fingers. Filling in the bubble at that point is like snipping the last wire on an explosive device. One wrong move and you might have agreed to donate a kidney to a Republican. It's best done from an easy chair, next to a cat with extra toes.

So I'm certainly glad we switched over to this nice, 100% paper ballot unhackable home voting system. I'm sure the rest of you are satisfied too.

What? You still go to the polls? You stand in line for hours? Sometimes you discover you're not on the rolls anymore? Your chads are still hanging under that curtain? There's no paper trail? You can't vote if your address is a post office box? You need your birth certificate, a note from your mommy, and an 8x10 color glossy? What kind of a stupid system is that?

Well, color me horrified. Except in Georgia, where it would be in my best interest not to color me at all, lest I get purged. There's a nice black woman running for governor there and it even looks like she has a good chance unless something can be done about it. Fortunately, the white dude she's running against is the Secretary of State in charge of elections, so something is.

I do read these comment threads full of Republican apologists. I have to, otherwise I might be able to sleep through the night. So I know what the problem is. There are lots and lots of people out there who can't even be bothered to get a proper driver's license with a photo I.D. to show to the poll people, so they shouldn't be allowed to vote. If you're that lazy, you shouldn't vote.

Uh. The lazy ones don't vote, so I'm not sure what the problem is.

Oh! And then there are all those people still on the voting rolls who are technically dead. That's a travesty. Thousands! We must purge the rolls of dead people.

Uh. Dead people vote even less often than lazy people. If you think you see a bunch of raggedy dead people lurching toward the polling booth, they're probably just homeless. They should vote too--they probably have opinions and life experiences that we need to hear about.

In general, Democrats think people who want to vote should be able to vote, whereas Republicans think people who want to vote Republican should be able to vote. Personally, I think felons should be able to vote. Why not? I understand people think voting is a privilege, but isn't it a privilege of citizenship? Are felons not citizens?

Ah. Citizens. There's the real problem: all those immigrants coming in to vote in our elections. They won't call the cops if there's trouble in the neighborhood, lest they be swept into detention on mistaken identity, but they're lining up in droves to cast illegal ballots. It's a risk for sure, so the only possible explanation for this is they're getting paid by George Soros. We already know they'll do anything for a little bit of money. They'll even pick radishes and dismember chickens and stuff. So. Ipso whacko, they're on the take.

Well, clearly, some restrictions are necessary. We can't just have people expressing their democratic wishes willy-nilly. There should be hoops to jump through. Hoops! That's it!

Let's make everybody shoot foul shots for ballots! Or, alternately, let's make everyone pass a basic civics test--ask a newly naturalized citizen if you need help. Or let's wipe out the lazy contingent altogether by requiring everyone to walk a thousand miles through the desert. That, there, shows fortitude.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The Swattable Fear

There was a spider crawling along my ceiling wearing a backpack and panniers, and I took a photo of her from the floor so I could zoom in and find out who she was. If I'd been a squeamish sort I could probably have taken a picture of her through the window from the sidewalk out front. She was sturdy, is what I'm saying. A little on the hairy side, also. And she had a pretty good strut to her. My picture came out fuzzy on account of her struttiness but I got enough to determine she was a good old jumping spider. I don't know where she is now.

It occurs to me that there are a lot of people who would want to keep tabs on such a spider, at the least, if they couldn't keep a rolled-up newspaper or a can of napalm on her. There are people of my own acquaintance who would be rooted to the spot pointing until an assassin showed up drawn by the hyperventilating. If a spider like my hairy friend later turned up missing, these people would have to put their house on the market to get any sleep.

It's pretty clear I'm not one of the people so afflicted. Right at the moment--and we're in the season--there are cobwebs in the corners of all my windows. I can't bear to vacuum them up because somebody's still using them, I think, and if I'd built myself a house and someone knocked it down, I'd be upset, especially if I had to reconstruct a whole new one out of my own butt. Also, I'm lazy, and my mom's not coming over.

My poor mom. She was very tidy. She lived with a man I'm also related to who liked bringing things home to photograph. Your snakes, your lizards, what have you. Sometimes they got away. Sometimes they got away in the house. Mom was an outwardly calm person, but chronic repressed heebie-jeebies probably took a toll on her. Dad took a lot of pictures of spiders although he didn't bring them home for the purpose. Legend had it he was scared of spiders as a child and made a point of getting to know them in order to get over it. That was probably an apocryphal story but we all need heroes.

Anyway I'm not worried about my missing spider at all. I base this on finding them interesting and having not been harassed by any. There are probably a hundred big spiders in this house and I've been bitten maybe four times, ever. The bites are always on my fanny. I assume I roll over them in my sleep and you can't really blame a small critter for objecting when substantially sat upon. I certainly don't think spiders are making a point of being assholes.

What we're afraid of usually doesn't make much sense. We're afraid to fly but we'll tailgate at sixty miles an hour while checking our phones. We're afraid of anyone who isn't in our own tribe, just in case. Some of us are being instructed to be afraid of liberals now, possibly the least threatening, least organized, most hapless class of nice people on earth.

But the thought that we are looking at a mass extinction in another twenty or thirty years? And an unsurvivable climate in another fifty? Too big to grasp. Doesn't compute. If we can't solve it with a fly swatter or an AR-15 assault rifle, it might as well not exist.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Just Relax And Enjoy It

Apparently baseball is boring, and we need to speed things up a little if our pharmaceutical companies are to make any money.

I don't think baseball is at all boring. Or, if it is, it's boring in a way we could all use more of. It's a Jane Austen novel in a twitter world. You should be able to go to the potty during a game and not miss anything. Baseball is a game in which something really exciting could happen at any time, but probably won't. Just like life: and is it really healthy to be on constant alert all day long? It is not. Life and Cracker Jax should be savored.

Yes, it's true that the Red Sox players' beards are measurably longer at the end of the game than the beginning, but did you have anything more important to do than watch them? Maybe, but you're not doing it.

Nevertheless, when it comes to baseball, the younger set is all Too Long, Didn't Read. So we have new rules in place to help move things along.

Sure, Americans will watch soccer, even though no one ever scores and all they do is run around. It's like watching an ant farm. If the players didn't all have such nice butts there wouldn't be any point to it at all.

Football? Please. You got one guy sprinting around while a bunch of men the size of major appliances jam into each other at close range. It's like watching a human sodium atom and hoping it ionizes.

But baseball players get to wear pajamas, and some of them are shlubs, and they still make the majors. They're relatable.

Well, I was dubious, but it doesn't look like the new rules have ruined the game. For instance, now pitchers can take a limited number of practice pitches more or less coinciding with the commercial break but that's it. Same goes for testicle rearrangement: if you're a scratch player, you no longer get to do that all day long.

There's also a new limit on visits to the mound, which is not as sexual as it sounds. Catchers, in particular, need to visit the pitcher on the mound upon occasion, when their signals get crossed up. It's the catcher that chooses the pitch, because it's his head in the strike zone, and he needs to have an idea where the missile is coming in.

There is a camera on everything in the field. There's a camera just to see what the pitcher is doing with his fingers inside his glove. When the umpires are called upon to review a play, they get super slo-mo camera work from every conceivable angle including the Space Station. And that is important because sometimes when you're 250 pounds and you're sliding into second, the planet spits you back. During that nanosecond of levitation, was the tag on you? Now we know. We have seen the view under your armpit. We have seen your pants flap and your cheek pleat up on the base. They've got cameras strapped to earthworms. Sparrows.

Notably, there's always a camera pointing at the crotch of the catcher, where he's fluttering his fingers in front of his nuts. Anyone could see what pitch he's calling, but nobody wants to look.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Heavens To Murrgatroyd

I think it can be safely said, now that the Red Sox are in the World Series, that God is involved in sports once again, but it's hard to hold his attention for long. Nevertheless efforts to engage him continue to be made on the playing field.

Gestures change with the times and it's hard to keep up. We're starting to see the end of the double-fist-bump on the heart, which is good, because I'm always worried it signals palpitations. That's a general salutation anyway, not directed toward the Almighty so much as one's fans. But it's nice and short, and the shorter you keep these demonstrations, the less likely the game will be delayed. Experienced practitioners can whip out a sign of the cross between the wind-up and the first pitch. It signifies that the batter is from the Dominican Republic.

You don't see a lot of genuflecting on the field, though. This should be left to catchers, who have springs for knees. Again, it is important to speed up the gesture and not linger overlong with one knee on the ground, lest the player be mistaken for a black man with an opinion, which is something black men are not licensed to have in this country. If you're at all arthritic you shouldn't even try.

We do not have a surfeit of Muslim baseball players and it's just as well. There's no way to speed up the prayerful position, even if it occurs naturally during a slide into second base, inasmuch as the player would then have to ascertain which way is west and point his heinie in that direction. It's a tough call in a domed stadium.

I do think we are achieving the ultimate efficiencies in God-acknowledgment with the current fad of looking skyward while pointing one index finger straight up. The message being sent here is something along the lines of "glory be to God on high," which is certainly how I would feel if I ever landed on first base with a solid hit. (My usual reaction is "holy shit," actually, but that's close.) So far God has not seen fit to install me on base except on a fielder's choice and that's not the kind of thing people like to give God credit for; not disease or hurricanes or dropped pop flies either, although I would imagine he's equally responsible for those.

The specificity of the direction is interesting. For many people, God has an actual address, and it is almost universally assumed, at least by Christians, to be located "up." If a baseball player hits a triple and points somewhere over the horizon, everyone in the stands would turn and look in case there was an incoming asteroid or something. If you think about it, if all the Christians in the world pointed up at the same time, the whole globe would be bristling with fingers going every which way. Which makes sense, if God is indeed everywhere.

For behold, the kingdom of God is within you, or so I recall from my early training, though nobody wants their baseball heroes pointing at themselves even though they made a spectacular play and have worked hard to hone their skills for years and years. It's just not done. But many ascribe to the notion that if God exists, he exists in each of us, and so it might be nice to level a finger at your teammates, especially if one of them just winged you the ball from a rolling horizontal position just exactly where you'd need it to tag the runner. There's no better explanation for a play like that but that God is directing things from the vicinity of that person's chest. Go ahead and point.

As long as he's not a Yankee.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Patch Me Up

It was all about the patches.

Once you got to be a Camp Fire Girl, you got a vest, and then you could start accumulating these cool patches. I don't know what they were for, because I never got that far. They could've been for anything. Conservation. Service. Congeniality. Typing. Showing up. Marshmallow cuisine. Patch-sewing. Patriarchy-fighting. I don't know.

You had to be a Blue Bird before you could be a Camp Fire Girl, so I was. That got me an outfit, thus enlarging my school wardrobe by 50%, because I got to wear it to school one day a week. We had meetings. We had officers. I was Secretary. All I knew was Secretary was a thing I could be, because Mom had been one before I got invented. I was hoping it was a ceremonial title, but they made me take minutes and stuff.

Summer after fourth grade, we got to go to Camp Mawavi. I was plenty excited. Mom and Dad saw me off when we filed into school buses. I was in line with all my friends and when we got to the front of the line they asked us our ages, and all my friends said Nine and went in one bus, and I said Eight and they sent me to a different bus, like Auschwitz. It was horrible. I squeaked and pointed but I had no experience arguing with an adult, and quickly ran out of options. The buses pulled into camp and my friends went one direction and I never saw them again, and I went with the Little Kids in the Little Cabins, where they checked on us at night by shining flashlights in the window and telling us it was the fairies. The next day they doubled down on the fairy story to point out the fairy dust shining in the dirt, but my older sister was a rockhound and I knew it was mica flakes, and said so. It didn't go over well.

This is how far I would go into the ocean.
I was miserable. We made lanyards out of gimp and potholders out of little loops. The worst was they kept trying to teach me to swim. All week I pretended I had a cold so they wouldn't make me put my head underwater, but at the end we were supposed to demonstrate our ability to put our heads underwater by navigating an obstacle course in the lake. We were supposed to duck under the big floaty thing and come up the other side, and I must have looked mighty wretched, which is how you look when you're only eight and contemplating your own death, because I remember the adult waiting and waiting and finally lifting up the floaty thing so I could go under it with my nose out of the water, and I passed. She must have realized she'd be stuck with my sorry fake-sneezy ass all summer if she didn't.

After that my friends all Flew Up, right there at camp. That's what it was called when you shed your Blue Bird wings and become a Camp Fire Girl and got the patches. If there's anything I hated more than putting my head underwater, it was flowing up. Also, they eliminated our school so we all had to go to a different school for fifth grade. And guess the hell what? All my friends went to Tuckahoe and I went to Taylor Elementary and didn't know anybody. That had to do with our house being in the Nearly Negro section of the county. We were red-lined out of a lot of things, including, not coincidentally, the public swimming pool. I went from being the most popular girl in Mrs. Rejuney's fourth-grade class to being a real nobody with still only two outfits and no friends, and I got an attack of bashful that lasted for years. Never really quite pulled out of it until I got me a little social currency in the form of real titties. Once the dress code was abolished and you could wear hippie jeans and a hippie work shirt to school and still be cool, my remaining obstacles had been lifted.

All of which is to note that I never got to earn patches for a vest. But now I have a hat. A Metro Volunteer Hat, earned for being a frog egg counter for the regional gummint, and I have five Birdathon pins to stick on it too. Shiny ones. Also, I can put my head underwater. I'd rather not, but I can.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

G.I. Joe vs. The Dead Huns

I just got my first Big Girl pneumonia shot. Evidently I have reached the magic age at which it is assumed I can't afford a full-price movie ticket, and I'm likely to keel over in the presence of a microbe. I do tip over easily.

I woke up the next day feeling a little off, though. For instance, I got up at the usual time and took a dump but instead of getting dressed I went back to bed, just because. Long about mid-morning it occurred to me to take my temperature, and sure enough, it was up to 99.9. Right in the dreaded stinkhole! No, I took it orally. My shoulder was sore where I'd gotten the shot, too.

So, awesome. I have a case of miniature shoulder pneumonia. My bicep is hard at work fending off disabled microbes and frankly, I couldn't be prouder. It's like the Attack Of The Dead Huns! This would be a practice run. Somebody has dumped off a shipment of Dead Huns and all my personal warriors have run out to stab them with daggers just to get the feel of it so they're not squeamish when the real thing arrives.

This is the sort of scenario you cook up when you're running a fever and need to feel okay with it. You want to feel ready for the Huns.

So because there was laundry to hang out and dishes to put away, I spent the morning looking up the Huns. Huns are supposed to be fierce, like pneumonia. Turns out one of the first peoples the Huns attacked were the Alans.  The Alans. How hard could it be to beat up the Alans? Clearly, I needed a different visualization.

So. My shoulder is full of highly excited plasma cells. The little girl plasma cells are off somewhere trying to read and the little boy plasma cells are in my shoulder with a set of G.I. Joe antibodies, lining them up and going pew pew pew at the invading dead pneumonia microbes and getting all steeped in the culture of violence so that some day when they grow up they can go to war for real, and the girl plasma cells can get some reading done. Everybody's yelling at them to keep it down in there, but that shoulder is going to be sore until they run out of G.I. Joes.

By the next day my fever is back to normal. The plasma cells have been instructed to put away their toy soldiers and register for Selective Service, and peace has returned to the body.

What a wonderful thing is the vaccine. Most of us remember that the first one was developed by an 18th-century physician who'd heard that milkmaids didn't come down with smallpox, possibly because they'd been exposed to cowpox, but it's not true. For one thing, it was probably horsepox all along. Also, the Chinese had him beat by 800 years. They did it old-school. They scraped smallpox scabs off of dead people and ground them into powder and made people snort it.

I don't want to hear anyone complaining about modern vaccines again. Roll up your sleeves and your kids' sleeves. We'll come up with a cure for imaginary autism later.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

It Is My Dooty To Report

Reader and Friend Of Pootie Nisa Blackmon recently corrected me about a misapprehension I had concerning how sea urchins take a dump. If this is not the only blog you'll read today that starts out like that, I hope it's the first.

As she explained, they don't really take a dump, at least not in the gravity-assisted way we have grown accustomed to. Their anus is on the top of their body. That seems like really poor design but we have to remember they're underwater for the event, and presumably their effluent leaves the immediate area. Up until now I had not considered that the ocean is basically a giant toilet. This cements my determination to avoid it, especially as it is not airworthy, and I do not have gills.

Well. Under the circumstances it only makes sense to put the anus on top. Those circumstances being that the urchin's mouth is on the bottom end, where it can hoover algae and such from various surfaces, and in general animals are designed to poop as far away from their mouths as possible. Flip yourself upside down to mow algae on the sea floor with your lips and you will note that your anus is on top, too.

Urchins have five-fold symmetry, which is unusual in the animal kingdom. You'd think that if they were doubling up, however many times, they'd come out even. But they start out bilateral like us, and then the left side only gets busy and divides, and the right side stays put to be the oddball. We end up with a basically spherical animal, like Chris Christie.

It's hard to argue with success. That anus arrangement has been going on for a long time. And individual urchins apparently keep growing, however slowly, until something eats them, such as a Japanese person. They can get to be a hundred years old, or even 200, with few signs of aging, which is understandable in a critter that starts out with sprouty hairs and dribbles poop on itself. What more could it do, keep the turn signal on? Scientists have learned a lot about their longevity by measuring the Carbon-14 in their little round suits, thoughtfully deposited during the nuclear bomb testing of the 1950s. They really don't know how old an urchin can get, although science is intrigued by the discovery of a massive urchin with what is thought to be catapult dents.

I just had a little fun at the sea urchins' expense, so let me correct the record to note that even old urchins do not dribble poop on themselves, but eject it forcefully. (Related sea stars have anal cones for the same purpose so as to distance themselves from their personal magma.) They probably do have to get up to go several times a night, though.



Aristotle, who had the benefit of being a curious fellow in a time when nobody knew anything, studied almost everything, including urchins, and he referred to the purpose of the anus as providing "issue of the residuum." I plan to work this into my vocabulary as soon as possible.

So there's a mouth and an anus and lots of tubes inside for organizing stuff once it's in there, but what about sex? It's a little disappointing. Female urchins expel eggs that float freely in the water, and male urchins produce milt that can fertilize any eggs it encounters. This method is scientifically known as "jacking off," or, if it keeps up for a long time, "on and onanism."

It doesn't seem like much of a plan, but urchins have been around for 450 million years. That's a pretty good run for something that has an asshole at the top. Take heart, America.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

A Rags To Bitches Story

So I found out, and never mind how, there's no reason to get into it on a Sunday, that my fine young friend buys reusable cotton flannel menstrual pads, which I didn't even know were a thing, but they are. And I was grateful yet again for being a post-menopausal liberal.

Because if I were a liberal woman still in the throes of unasked-for fertility, I would then have to go purchase these myself, and use them and wash them out in order to keep yet another single-use throwaway item out of the landfill, because that is the curse of a liberal, to worry about such things, and because it's not as if the throwaway kind ever saved much on laundry anyway, since there wasn't a single month in forty years in which I did not manage to doody on something I shouldn't have, even if I wore two corks and a pad so large it has a tag on it that says DO NOT REMOVE UNDER PENALTY OF LAW.

If I were a pre-menopausal conservative I wouldn't have to give this a second thought. I would be worried about some colored person breaking into my house or being blown up by a Muslim war refugee or raped by a Mexican or the fact that God is both all-powerful and somehow kept out of the schools or that some liberal is going to force me to use curly light bulbs or some stinking Socialist is going to steal my Medicare or someone is going to call me a racist just for having the guts to call a spade a spade or, and this is the very worst thing, my own husband might some day be accused of something he didn't do, something that totally never happened on account of there being no witnesses except that one really drunk dude who hasn't remembered anything he's done in thirty years. Any woman could accuse him of such a thing at any time and then go cash her check from the First National Bank Of Libtards and it wouldn't matter how many creative explanations my husband made up to explain the naughty bits in his yearbook. And his life would be ruined unless he makes it to the Supreme Court and is right back on top. As it were.

As a conservative woman I would be able to assume that life began when I was born, and being able to wear sweaters inside in the summer and drive my Ford Extortion to the corner store and throw away a plastic pod every time I make coffee is just what the world owes me. Certainly I would assert there was no life before pads and tampons. Just because women survived for a million years without them until a hundred years ago does not mean that we could survive without them today.

They did, though. Admittedly, history has not been overly interested in the concerns of women. Hypatia is an exception. That 5th-century mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher once discouraged an unwanted suitor by smacking him with her menstrual rags, although some scholars dispute this account, pointing out that she could have just waved them around and he'd have dropped dead of his own accord. Unfortunately, Hypatia was a woman of great and beguiling beauty, otherwise known as Satanic wiles. She and her big brain and beauty got into a nest of early Christians and that was pretty much that, for soon enough she was murdered, sliced up, dragged in pieces through the street, and burned.

And for this alone I might have donned the cotton rag in Hypatia's name. But now I don't have to, thank God. Or whoever's in charge.